“Rather than riding the wave, why don’t we come in before the wave starts rolling?” asks Alvin Toh mid-conversation, and this question is an apt analogy to describe the inception of Blinkware Technology. The mundanity of corporate life led him to resign from his banking job in early February 2013. Alvin started looking at new technology — he found Xbox Kinect’s motion-sensing technology exciting & wondered if there were more to it than just fun & games. Alvin was not hampered by his lack of technical background — he then went to India and contacted 30 to 40 individuals working in the industry through LinkedIn, of which only 1 person responded. That person — Jugal Rupela — came aboard as one of their co-founders, and now acts as the CTO of Blinkware Technology.
Another individual Blinkware Technology owes its early success to is their current chairman, Thoo Chow Fah; who was one of the early investors in the company. Nevertheless, Alvin also credits the entire team for bringing Blinkware to where it is now; noting that the initial idea & concept of the business has evolved further since then.
Blinkware Technology currently positions itself as an interactive new media company, creating an optical recognition technology that makes use of 2D cameras, which can be tailored to fit multiple industries. What sets them apart is their ability to use existing digital platforms and enhancing user-experience of these platforms by utilising low cost hardware.
Alvin cites 2015 as a milestone year for Blinkware Technology. They were selected by the Malaysian Government to be their exclusive interactive partner for the Milan Expo, doing 90% of the interactive technology. One of their highlights at the expo was a dome housing a digital screen which made use of AR to bring a fully immersive experience of Malaysian wildlife to the crowds. The company has also created the first touch wall in Southeast Asia for Galeri Petronas, which was 40 feet in size and had made use of a normal projector. New interactive media products aside, Blinkware Technology also dabbles in more ‘serious’ areas. The company’s optical research & development arm is currently working on integrating optical technology in automative manufacturing, which can be used to assist in quality control processes.
Despite their successes, the company does face the same hurdles plaguing most technology companies: the struggle to find & retain long-term talents, as well as to expand logically & intelligently into new markets. Most of their workforce are made up of expats from India & the Philippines — countries where corporate culture is not the norm — which led the company to develop a strong corporate culture to retain them, and this strategy has worked well. They also encourage a number of selected local universities to come & work for the company by teaching them, which creates a local base of talented programmers. Blinkware Technology also does market research from time-to-time to find the right partners to support their core products, which is where their advisory board comes in & assists them.
Alvin mentors a number of start-ups in his spare time and stresses on importance of getting that ‘big break’, “whether it’s cash or the one big client”. For Blinkware Technology, that ‘big break’ came in the form of snapping up UOB Bank as a client, which then led to an opportunity to work with Sungei Wang; and a steady roll of clients just started coming their way from that point onwards. Blinkware Technology broke even in its first year of operations, and was already profitable in its second. The company sustains themselves through a total of 50 recurring clients, who makes use of their new interactive media products. While Blinkware Technology positions themselves in terms of low pricing, they do face competitors from China who charge cheaper prices. The company edges them out by providing better after-sales support to their clients at no additional costs. This move, Alvin says, helps their client see the value in their partnership.
Blinkware Technology is slated to roll out three core products with a focus on quality control, facial biometrics and surveillance into the Malaysian market for 2018 – all of which have generated a fair amount of interest from their potential clients. The company is also rebranding themselves into a technology company, a move set to prepare themselves towards series-B funding. Blinkware Technology hopes to venture into other industries in the long haul, which includes looking into social aspects and concerns that could help communities and improve the quality of life such as areas of distracted driving. Going into e-commerce, as well as creating an omni-channel or seamless customer experience across digital platforms are also on their cards.